EU, US to hold talks on airline laptop ban next week

Brussels (AFP) - The EU and the United States will hold talks next week on a possible US airline ban on carry-on computers amid concerns it could cause massive disruption as the hectic summer travel season gets underway.

The US Department of Homeland Security sparked deep concern in Europe on Tuesday when it said was close to a decision on extending to European airlines an existing ban on eight mostly Muslim countries.

A European Commission spokeswoman said a telephone call between top EU officials and their US peers had provided "a very constructive exchange of views".

"No ban on electronic devices or any other decision has been announced," she said.

The EU officials -- Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc -- recalled the bloc's longstanding cooperation with Washington on airline security.

- 'Assess potential risks' -

At the same time, Bulc "highlighted the potential safety implications of putting a large number of electronic devices in the aircraft hold," the spokeswoman said.

"The EU invited the US to come to Brussels next week for talks at political and expert level ... to jointly assess the potential risks and review future measures," she added.

No date was announced.

A US ban on now ubiquitous laptops could cause havoc with more than 3,250 flights a week scheduled to leave EU airports for the US this summer, according to industry data.

Some experts believe there is also a security risk in putting them in the hold given the danger of their batteries catching fire.

Avramopoulus and Bulc earlier this week sent a letter asking Washington to work together with Brussels on the issue.

In March, Washington banned passengers from eight countries in North Africa and the Middle East from carrying on board laptop computers, tablets and other electronic devices larger than cellphones.

Britain followed with a similar ban applying to incoming flights from six Middle East and North African countries.

The move, which forces passengers to put their devices into checked baggage, came amid concerns that jihadist groups were devising bombs disguised as batteries in consumer electronics items.

A bomb that blew a hole in the fuselage of a Somali airliner in February 2016, killing one person, is believed to have been built into a laptop computer carried into the passenger cabin.

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